Archives For Personal Effectiveness

What comes to mind when you think about leadership responsibility? Taking charge? Casting vision? Setting strategy? Getting results? Every time I get to ask this question in a workshop setting, the list gets long very quickly.

Let’s make it more personal with this sobering question: are the people you lead better or worse off because of you? What is the experience of each person on the other end of your leadership?

Since there are so many leadership responsibilities, let’s focus on just a few that have enormous implications for the people in our wake.

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Simplify or Petrify

October 2, 2017

I had a chance to work with a couple new vendors recently. The contrasts couldn’t be more stark. One is a time-tested and respected brand and product. Another is a semi-recent start-up with an innovative concept. But the differences didn’t end there. Right from the get-go, one required some initial planning and then essentially ran itself. The other became a second job to actively manage. One required a few decisions that could be made quickly. The other required many complicated and lengthy decision points. One had a simple system with self-service reporting. The other had a complicated system that required customized reporting.

In many ways the products were comparable, but it wasn’t long before I started caring less about results and more about my own self-preservation.

The main issue wasn’t quality or customer service. It was simplicity. From top to bottom, one was simple, the other was complex.

In today’s marketplace, simplicity is currency.

As you look to increase your leadership effectiveness, make sure simplicity is part of your equation. Here are a few tips to get you started.

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“How can I get my leaders to do a better job coaching their teams?”

That’s a question I frequently field from the executives and HR partners I support. I hope you’ve asked that question for yourself as well, because it means developing your team is high on your radar. I’ve shared the key skills of coaching as well as my favorite coaching conversational model GROW. That said, a new question arises, which is when should you coach and when shouldn’t you?

If you get this question wrong, you’re likely to either confuse your team or neglect to use your coaching skills to their maximum effectiveness. But if you get it right, you’ll grow as a coach and so will your employees.

Here are three situations when you should not coach and five situations when you should.

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Over a decade ago I received a DVD of a past Chick-fil-A franchisee seminar. As I watched, the late founder Truett Cathy took the stage to deliver his opening remarks. They weren’t what I expected. He opened by saying, “If any of you has something against someone in this room, I want you to make it right.” Then he promptly left the stage and approached someone in the audience for a conversation. After an initial silence, almost every person in the audience got up and found someone to talk to. Soon the whole place was abuzz for quite sometime.

Watching the seminar footage, I couldn’t help but muse, “You just don’t see that every day….” It was just so… different. Contrast this with a scenario that played out a few years back on my team. I had received some feedback on a project that I didn’t agree with and had defended myself a little too aggressively. The next day, I decided I owed my team an apology. Even so, I remember pacing in my cubical for several minutes before I could muster up the will to admit I’d been wrong.

What is it about apologizing that is so difficult? And what makes it so important – in terms of cultural capital, influence and effectiveness?

Here are my observations.

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The new three-part video series Jump-Start Your Employee Engagement has now launched. Join communication expert Josh Erickson and myself for three ideas in three days – all in four minutes or less. This video series will only be available for a limited time – click here to enroll.

How do people learn to be leaders?

That’s the question leadership consultant and thought leader Robert J. Thomas answered at a leadership academy event I recently helped organize. Speaking from his book Crucibles of Leadership, Thomas demonstrated that simply taking a course on leadership would do little to transform leadership abilities. In fact, knowledge plays only a small role in a leader’s effectiveness, despite the high price often invested in higher education.

Here is a sample of the elements that transform ordinary people into great leaders.

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When I think about what makes a great boss, one of my first items is someone who really knows what they are doing – a true expert. And when I think about what makes a true expert, in my mind it’s always an older person, someone with sage-like wisdom who has been where I am… but a long time ago.

If you’ve worked for any length of time, you know that’s just not realistic.

I’ve managed folks who were older than me in the past and recently finished an assignment with my first younger boss – a great experience for me. If you’re younger than the folks you lead, keep these best practices in mind.

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I recently conducted a needs assessment for a senior executive group and was surprised when one of the highest rated development needs was stress management. The topic came up again in training discussion when another executive group expressed a high desire to include stress management on the list. I guess I assumed in a climate where everyone was expected to delivery more with less (as is the case in most places) the topic would seem too “soft” to them.

Now I’m thinking maybe they were on to something. Instead of ignoring the stress, they’re trying to be proactive about it. If the business reality won’t change anytime soon, maybe we can better adapt to it.

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Dealing in Hope

January 9, 2017

Napoleon Bonaparte claimed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Hope is a strangely human enigma. It can’t be handled but it can be shared. It can’t create anything on its own but it can pave the way for new accomplishments.

Whether you’re celebrating a new beginning (like the start of a new year), caught up in new adventure or struggling to maintain the status quo, hope plays a key role. Not only must leaders be positive (no one wants to follow a pessimist!), they must deal in hope that can be felt and transferred.

Here are several ways to grow and share your hope.

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Expertise Matters!

November 21, 2016

Years ago I served as a consultant to two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked closely together. At one, the head accountant was a friendly woman who very much enjoyed her job. But on several occasions, there were questions regarding the way the numbers added up and we had to work together to find and fix the errors. One day the president of the other NGO expressed a need for a new accountant and I casually suggested he consider the accountant from the first NGO. He rolled his eyes and commented that her lack of expertise would be a liability on his team.

I’ve thought about that scenario quite a few times since then. There have been occasions where I was clearly out of my league at work. As a young consultant, I struggled so much with the ambiguity of my role that I was frequently unable to sleep at night. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – and worse, I didn’t know who I could ask for help since I was expected to perform anyway. I didn’t want to be like the woman in the first NGO: a friendly and enthusiastic person who couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

Expertise isn’t the only critical factor in getting a job done, but it certainly is one of them. In its absence, ideas can’t “tip,” planning gets skewed and results suffer.

Not all of us are required to be the ultimate expert on any given day, but some of us are. Regardless, any expertise you can acquire will go a long way. Here are six ways to build your expertise – regardless of your field.

expert-definition

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How do you get your big idea across in the age of information? A quick keyword search can provide anyone with much more data than they could ever hope to use. What’s the secret to getting your idea past all the clutter and into the land of reality?

It’s been well over a decade since Malcolm Gladwell published his bestseller The Tipping Point. In it, he explains that it’s not the quality of the idea itself, but the quality of three key ingredients that cause the idea to tip. If you haven’t read the book, below are the items (hint: they’re people) as well as a few strategies to employ.

Idea Light Bulb

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When you’re new to the workforce, enjoying leadership success can be a far off goal. The main focus is finding the right role and doing quality work. I know that was the case for me. But with time and experience (and a lot of hard work) come new opportunities to lead at higher levels. You go from joining a team to leading a team to eventually leading a department or major organizational function. Each time the strategy shifts.

A couple years ago I was privileged to have Mark Miller guest post on my site about surviving success. We all need a game plan to kick off a new opportunity. But our behavior needs an adjustment as well.

In his bestseller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shares twenty habits that can be largely overlooked at lower organizational levels, but have the potential to absolutely derail a senior leader who doesn’t change course. There isn’t room to share them all in this post, but I’d like to highlight five extra critical ones. Fail to implement them, and your best people may go looking for a new leader.

Man Stuck on Ladder

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I’ve been thinking about career selection and management a lot recently. When I’m asked how I landed where I am, I’m quick to reply that I wouldn’t wish my career path on anyone but I sure do love where I am now. In all honesty, there has been a lot of hard work, difficult choices and tough breaks along the way. But that’s true for anyone who wants something more.

So what does career management have to do with leadership? It’s a lot harder to lead if you’re not in the right job fit. One of the best ways to excel as a leader is to choose the right context.

Here’s some of the best conventional wisdom I use with myself and others when it comes to charting out a career path – or just making a change.

Your Career Keyboard

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